Prayer is in the listening. If you listen, the call of a wild goose can be a prayer. The calls of the wild geese in Mary Oliver's poem are like angels that announce our place in the world, over and over.
I experience that kind of prayer in my community on Shabbat morning. The prayers are less harsh and less exciting, but I still hear the kindness, loss, hope, support and belonging. It's there that I join the safe space of humans telling their stories. My shul is just one place, but it could be anywhere, because it’s not where you say it or what you say, but what you hear, that makes a difference.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
Ma'amadot for Thursday - part of Rabbi Arthur Green's project
God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and birds that fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” God created the great sea monsters, and all the living creatures of every kind that creep, which the waters brought forth in swarms, and all the winged birds of every kind. And God saw that this was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fertile and increase, fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. (Gen. 1:20–23)